Friday, February 2, 2007

reduction

In cooking, sometimes you have to boil a liquid down to its essence, to concentrate and intensify the flavors left in the pan. A reduction, it's called. I was doing this a couple of weeks ago, trying to make a gravy, when it occurred to me that my work-daycare decision is also about boiling something down to its essence. And the essence of the matter was that I don't want Daniel in daycare. So how do we make everything else work around that? When I figured out the basic intention, everything else — whether to go back to work, whether to work from home, whether to try it out and see how daycare goes before making a decision — just sort of fell together. Therefore (went my line of thought): I won't go back to the office. I will stay home with Daniel. We will live on a tighter budget. Whatever I would like to do in the way of work will be accomplished around that. It really became quite simple ... I don't know why it was so agonizing before. (And in case you're wondering, unhelpful guilt-trips such as those left in random comments here on this blog did not factor into my decision.)

Not that staying home with Daniel full-time will always be easy. It can be monumentally hard work at times. I understand why some moms find it mind-numbing. Mind-numbing, but also (at times when I need it most) ridiculously joyful. This morning, I sat at the table in mismatched sweats and slippers, spooning puréed carrots into his mouth and scraping the runoff from his chin, saying "yum yum" and "good boy", and I thought, "Look at me now. I am so far from the nicely dressed professional I was six months ago. I used to spend my days writing articles, researching interesting topics, editing page proofs. I used my strengths, my intelligence, my social skills. I used my college degree. Now I use my sleeve to wipe slobber off mouths, and I consider it normal to go two days without bathing. I have absolutely no training in child development. I hardly recognize myself." And then I looked at Daniel's eager little face waiting for the next spoonful and felt such a wave of love and protectiveness toward this precious, vulnerable little child. This job is important, too — maybe the most important one I will ever have, and I don't want to hand it off to anyone else. (Except maybe Steve sometimes!) Yes, sometimes I don't recognize myself. But I am still here, just learning — new skills, new challenges, new ways of loving and living.

I feel certain that I won't lose that old part of myself, though. (Heck, with the amount of time I spend reading about my latest obsession — vaccines — I come close to feeling like my old self at times!) I will continue to look for ways to preserve my individuality, to protect my passions, to keep my writer's identity honed. In that respect, I am lucky to have the boss that I do; he's willing to let me do some work for the paper from home. Plus, I really do hope to get this freelancing thing going and slowly, eventually build it into a larger business.

Meanwhile, Daniel naps on my lap as I write. He likes to sleep in my lap, and unless I have something else to do, like pump breastmilk or make myself lunch, I don't mind holding him. It's a Friday afternoon, the end of a long, cold week, and we didn't go out into the near-zero temperatures today. I usually go a little stir-crazy if I don't get out of the house, so I've tried to make it a priority, at least most days. Lately, we've been to the Minneapolis Institute of Art, where Daniel smiled back at the Buddhas; the Rosedale mall, where I bought a belt to cinch my now-too-big post-partum jeans; and the St. Paul downtown library, where we hung out in the warm magazine room with the homeless people, and I paged through old issues of Vogue and the Utne Reader. It felt like a luxury.

4 comments:

Chris said...

That that's vocation. I could almost swear that you're a Lutheran.

Monkeymama said...

I'm glad things seem clearer now and I hope the freelance work takes off, how exciting!

Mother Laura said...

Congratulations on this exciting decision! You really enacted two of Ignatius' key principles of discernment: 1. Listen to your deep heart's desire and 2. Make a tentative decision and see if it feels right or not.

I worked at home writing my doctoral dissertation and doing wedding ministry from right after my youngest daughter's birth till she was two and happy to start preschool. I had a couple of wonderful babysitters coming in, ranging from part time to full depending on the level of stress at a given time. It was perfect--lots of time to enjoy and do extended breastfeeding with Katie and the freedom to do my work and get out when I needed to. The sitters became good friends (and in one case an informal Spanish tutor, who really jacked up my fluency)--esp. since during the many hours of nursing early on I would sometime have them sit and chat with me rather than do light housework or cooking (also very welcome). Since I was there most of the time I had no worries about what was happening, and two of them were young newly married or engaged women who considered the time a valuable apprenticeship and learning opportunity. (The first one I lost after nine months, because after a couple of weeks being around Katie's incredible cuteness she decide to speed up her own motherhood schedule! So my one piece of unsolicited advice would be: know that you are doing very important work--both the caregiving and the freelancing--and deserve childcare assistance, in the format and extent you are comfortable with, even if your work is not producing much (or any) money. And your sweetie needs regular time to take care of the baby solo (which he may well already be doing) for their bonding and his competence, and to give you time for self care, girlfriend bonding, work etc.

Please excuse me if the advice is unwelcome, and just accept the prayers and good wishes as you embark on this great adventure!

Megan T said...

Emilie - I haven't been on in awhile.

You are absolutely doing the right thing in staying home with Daniel (who looks just like his Dad, by the way!)

I only took a 7-week maternity leave with Katie. Had I known that I only would have 1 child, I never would have done it because you never get that wonderful time back.

Working full-time in an office is over-rated. Using your brain and your spirit to create beautiful things (including your son) on your own time schedule is extremely precious.

You go girl!